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Movie Review: The Family

By Edited Aug 4, 2016 0 0

Certificate 15, 111 minutes

Director: Luc Besson

Stars: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron

The Family is about Fred Blake (Robert de Niro), a former New York Mafia boss called Giovanni Manzoni and is based on the novel Malavita (or Badfellas in English) by Tonino Benacquista.

"Fred" and his family are now in Witness Protection under the supervision of the FBI and Agent Robert Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones, Jason Bourne, Men in Black 3), who have sent them to France for some unexplained reason, and there is a $20 million bounty on his head. They have been moving around for years due to the family having problems blending in with the locals, and not acting like gangsters, and have just been set up in a small town in Normandy.

The Family
Here, they continue to run into problems with Fred's wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer, Dark Shadows) taking offense with how she is treated in a local supermarket and blowing it up, their daughter Belle (Dianna Agron) showing a definite violent streak with anyone who crosses her and their son Warren (John D'Leo) running various scams and rackets at his new school. Fred in the meantime decides to start a one man quest to find out why their tap water is brown, with much violence on the way, and also decides to write his memoirs. The latter being a prospect that is not well received by Stansfield, although why that is, is never fully explained.

Meanwhile, one of the Mafia bosses Fred betrayed that led to him being in Witness Protection, Don Luchese (Stan Carp), is still running things from inside prison, despatching Mafia goons to track them down and kill them all. A process made easier by the family's consistent tendency to give themselves away in the manner in which they behave. For some reason, the people sent after the "Blakes" dress like old time gangsters and stand out more than a little.

With the odd exception (Silver Linings Playbook), you get the feeling that De Niro simply isn't producing his best stuff currently - like Goodfellas (which is actually referenced in the film, and the director of that, Martin Scorsese, is actually an executive producer of this film) - and is instead just signing up for anything. He is certainly pretty typecast in The Family.

There are some funny points in the film, but there is an often jarring contrast between them and the really quite violent scenes from the film, especially the sequences near the conclusion of the film. It gives the impression that director Luc Besson wanted to make a film in homage to the gangster genre, and decided to add some humour to it - a genre that he is not exactly known for. Action films yes; comedies, no. This is probably why the action sequences and comedic sequences didn't seem to fit that well together.

There are also unanswered questions regarding why they are in Witness Protection, why they have been sent to France of all places - somewhere that an American family is often going to stand out at the best of times, especially in the more rural areas - and why the prospect of Fred writing his memoires is such a big no-no. Possibly these were answered in the book, but never made it into the film. The Family doesn't quite work as well as it could, or should, have.
The Family egdcltd 2013-11-28 3.0 0 5
3/5
The Family
Amazon Price: $9.99 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 4, 2016)
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